Bill Passes Committee with Bipartisan Support
The Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee today unanimously passed legislation, introduced by Senators Mark Pryor (D-AR) and Olympia Snowe (R-ME), intended to spur innovation and economic development through the development of science parks.
The Building a Stronger America Act will help construct or expand science parks, which seek to encourage new startup businesses, generate student interest in science and technology fields, and encourage relationships between universities and industry. Specifically, the legislation allows the Secretary of Commerce to guarantee up to 80 percent of loans exceeding $10 million for the construction of science parks. The bill would also provide grants for the development of feasibility studies as well as plans for the construction of new, or expansion of existing, science parks. Finally, the bill would require the National Academy of Sciences to evaluate the program.
"Science parks provide a launch pad for economic activity in a community. They have a strong record of fostering talent, high tech innovation and job growth," Pryor said. "Providing seed funding to create or expand these parks is a necessary investment for our economy as well as our global competiveness."
"A hallmark of science parks is that they create well-paying jobs and spur critical innovation," said Senator Snowe. "Our bill goes beyond the traditional "mortar and bricks" model and leverages the networks of people, knowledge, and technology clusters in order to meet the economic development needs of the 21st century. Additionally, I thank Senator Pryor for working with me to include a provision that recognizes the critical nature of transforming military bases shuttered by the BRAC process into vibrant science parks, thus assisting these installations to redevelop in a timely fashion and recoup thousands of lost jobs."
Science parks improve the economic base of a region and state. According to the Association of University Research Parks (AURP), science parks contribute over $31 billion to North America's economy annually. For example, 31 organizations are affiliated with the Arkansas Research and Technology Park at the University of Arkansas, employing more than 350 individuals at an average salary of $63,277. The Park is making scientific breakthroughs in areas that include energy, electronics and photonics, nanotechnology, biotechnology, and "green" products and techniques.
The bill is also cosponsored by Senators Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), Mark Begich (D-AK), Jeff Bingaman (D-MN), Bob Casey (D-PA), Byron Dorgan (D-ND), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Mike Johanns (R-NE) and Tim Johnson (D-S.D.) and Tom Udall (D-NM).